On Sunday April 19th I led worship at Woodlands Chapel. Worship began as we sang the introit, ‘Come let us sing of a wonderful love’. My first hymn was ‘This joyful Eastertide’ before I led the opening prayers of thanksgiving, adoration, confession and the Lord’s Prayer. I then read the reading from Acts 3v11-19 before telling the children about the healing of the man crippled from birth through the name of Jesus who had been crucified by the Jews. Peter told them the man had not been healed by his power but only through the risen power of Jesus. I told them about the song, ‘Peter and John went to pray
They met a lame man on the way
He asked for alms
And held out his palms
And this is what Peter did say
Silver and gold have I none
But what I have I give you
In the name of Jesus of Nazareth
Rise up and walk.’
I was not sure of the tune but I acted out the chorus, ‘He went walking and leaping and praising God’, and I had some bemused expressions from the children, who thought I must have flipped!! I told the children that Jesus was alive today and that we can walk and talk with him each day. I reminded them of a favourite chorus of mine, ‘He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today’, with actions.
The children then took up the offering before we sang, ‘Rejoice and be glad! The Redeemer hath come:’ and the children left for their groups. We then read Psalm 4 responsively before two members of the congregation did a dramatised reading based on Luke 24v36-48. We then sang ‘Alleluia, alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord’ before the sermon.
The disciples still had doubts about whether Jesus’ resurrection was physical and whether he was a ghost. They found it difficult to believe that Jesus really could be alive. The women had been to the tomb and were told Jesus was alive but they were not really believed by the disciples and Peter had followed to the tomb but still wondered what had happened. Cleopas and his friend had encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus, and they had not recognised him; however they did not want him to leave, and invited them to stay and finally recognised him when he broke bread with them and he had vanished. Having seen him had given them the energy to walk the 7 miles back to Jerusalem to tell the others. Luke in today’s reading stressed that the resurrection was real, Jesus really was alive. Jesus asked them to look at his hands and his feet and to touch him and he asked for something to eat; he ate the fish to prove to them that he was really alive. He then reminded the disciples of all he had taught them when he was with them and that his death and resurrection was the fulfilment of scripture. I am sure I would have also found it difficult to believe when it happened. It would have seemed too good to be true. They would still feel very vulnerable and unable to be witnesses to Jesus.
However there was the promise of the power still to come, which they obviously still needed. How would they be able to preach with confidence repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name to all nations? The disciples’ experiences with Jesus naturally made them witnesses of all he had said and done. Despite their flawed understanding Jesus still entrusted this task to them. As we see in Luke’s later writing in Acts, when Peter healed the man crippled from birth he healed him in the name of Jesus of Nazareth; Peter went to great lengths to say that he did not heal the man by his own power only through the name of Jesus whom they had driven to the cross, but God had raised him from the dead. Although they had driven Jesus to his death in their ignorance, they could now repent and turn back to Jesus and be forgiven.
Psalm 4 is a psalm of lament and confidence; the psalmist reflects the reality of our experience of life. Although we know for ourselves that Jesus is alive and with us each day to strengthen and help us, life is not wonderful for us all the time. There are times we feel overwhelmed by difficult circumstances and find it hard to feel confident in our risen Lord. The psalmist recognises the ups and downs of our lives and ends the psalm with a note of confidence; verse 8, ‘In peace I will lie down and sleep: for you alone Lord make me dwell in safety.’ When we feel that we will be bound to let him down, we need to remember that Jesus knows our weaknesses and his power is made perfect in our weakness. Jesus never lets us go and he is risen indeed Alleluia.
We sang ‘Now the green blade rises from the buried grain’ before Ann Winter the worship leader led the prayers of intercession. Worship concluded as we sang, ‘Thine be the glory, risen, conquering son’.